1 Peter chapter 2 starts with “therefore”…since you were sanctified by the Spirit (1:2), sprinkled by the blood of Jesus (1:2), directed to be holy (1:16), redeemed by the blood of Jesus (1:18) and purified by obeying the truth (1:22)…put away all things contrary to the nature of what God has both done for you and made you to be.
“Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” – 1 Peter 2:1-3
There is one other thing the therefore points back to and that is the encouragement to love deeply (1:22) which is part of living the imperishable life (1:23). This is who we are so this is how we are to live. Because God has done these things for us we are to react or respond in a particular way – by putting aside (ridding ourselves of) those things that run counter to all that Peter explained in chapter 1 in regard to our holiness.
In the next few verses, 2:4-10 Peter continues alternating between their identity as a holy people (1 Peter 1:1-21) to their response (1:22-2:3), and back to their identity as a holy people (2:4-10).
The first thing Peter uses is a metaphor that is both individualistic and communal. They are each living stones but when put together they become a spiritual house for the Lord (a temple – 2:5). Not only are they the temple, they are also the priests who serve in that temple (2:5) and it is through the way they are living their lives that spiritual sacrifices are being offered to the Lord. All of this derives from the first stone, Jesus, who is the chief cornerstone. He is the one who is set in the corner to make the entire house square and level. That means all the rest of the stones are set and defined by him as the standard.
This is who we are as Christians. If you are not in Christ you are not the spiritual house, nor are you a part of the holy priesthood of God. That is language of exclusion, which is not popular today, but it is what Peter is teaching. You are either in or you are out. You either accept Jesus or reject him…either either causes you to stumble or he is your cornerstone. The decision is yours and the invitation is open to all. The only real exclusionary factor comes down to our decision and whether or not we believe this and want to live in accordance with what this belief requires. If you are in then you are expected to live in a particular way that is in line with your identity as God’s holy child. If you are in you cannot live however you want. There are standards and we are to be held to those standards.
Last we get these key verses on identity,
“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.“
These are all phrases derived from the Old Testament. We know that in the Old Testament God called the Levites to serve as his priests but at the same time God did expect all his people to consider themselves as holy as the priests. Right before God gave the 10 commandments in Exodus 20 he said this in Exodus 19:6,
“Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.“
This is who we are in Christ. We are God’s special possession and this should drive us to do two things:
First, it should drive us to maintain our distinctiveness through holy living. Our holy living, as we will continue to see in 1 Peter, marks us out as different from the rest of the world and will often cause us trouble (see chapter 4). Second, it should drive us to evangelism because we don’t want to see anyone excluded from such a special blessing and identity.
If you are going to live in this world as an alien (he launches back into that in 2:12) then you have to know who you are and that is what Peter is teaching us. You are holy because God made you holy so live like it. You are special to God and belong to him…so live like it and help someone else come to faith to receive these blessings and this identity as well!
Identity is a difficult thing these days. People struggle to know who they are. In Christ, we shouldn’t have to wonder about that but should be certain in our identity because Christ has made us his very own!